SPY CASES - UNITED STATES

Wen Ho Lee

May-August 1999

 

Materials presented in chronological order.

Loeb, Vernon. "Spy Suspect Cooperated With FBI in '82: Lee Passed Polygraph in Earlier Probe of Atomic Espionage at Livermore Lab." Washington Post, 2 May 1999, A2. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

On 29 April 1999, SSCI members "grilled FBI Director Louis J. Freeh" about an incident in which Wen Ho Lee "cooperated with the FBI 17 years ago when the agency was conducting another nuclear espionage investigation.... Lee ... passed a polygraph examination in 1982 after he called a nuclear weapons scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suspected of espionage at the time, according to sources familiar with the incident."

Loeb, Vernon, and Walter Pincus. "Atomic Scientist Denies He Spied, Cites Aid to FBI." Washington Post, 7 May1999, A1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"Wen Ho Lee ... spoke out for the first time [on 6 May 1999], insisting in a lengthy statement by his attorney that he has never spied for China and never 'given any classified information to any unauthorized persons.'"

Loeb, Vernon, and Roberto Suro. "FBI 'Never Came Close' to Threshold in Lee Case." Washington Post, 29 May 1999, A4. "The Suspicions Didn't Add Up to Evidence." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 7 Jun. 1999, 31.

"FBI agents seeking a warrant for their investigation of espionage suspect Wen Ho Lee were sent back for additional evidence three times by Justice Department attorneys but 'never came close' to meeting legal standards for a search or a wiretap, department officials said" on 28 May 1999.

Johnston, David. "Suspect in Loss of Nuclear Secrets Unlikely to Face Spying Charges." New York Times, 15 Jun. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 14 June 1999, Government officials said that "it is most unlikely" that Wen Ho Lee "will ever face criminal charges of espionage.... Investigators pieced together an account of Lee's contacts with Chinese over the years, producing an outline of circumstantial information. Some of it seemed to raise questions about Lee. Some of it seemed too speculative to shed significant light on his activities. And none of it was solid enough to form the basis for an indictment.... One crucial component is missing. There is no direct evidence that Lee ever passed or tried to pass on to China any classified national security information."

Gertz, Bill. "Los Alamos Suspect Might Face Lesser Charge in Espionage Case." Washington Times, 13 Jul. 1999. Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 19-25 Jul. 1999, 7.

Wen Ho Lee may avoid espionage charges and, instead, be charged "with violations of federal laws that make it a crime to mishandle national security or atomic energy information contained in federal computers." Government officials have concluded that "the FBI mishandled the investigation early on, making a successful espionage prosecution unlikely."

CBS News. "Spy Suspect: 'I'm Innocent.'" 2 Aug. 1999. [http://www.cbs.com]

In an interview with CBS News on 28 July 1999, carried on CBS' "60 Minutes" on 1 August 1999, Dr. Wen Ho Lee said that "he did only what 'many people' also did in handling classified data and never committed espionage." Lee admits "that the Energy Department's charge that he improperly downloaded secret information from a classified computer to a non-classified one was true. But, he said, that charge is 'misleading' because it was a routine part of his job to do so."

See also, Robert Pear, "Suspect in Atom Secrets Case Publicly Denies Aiding China," New York Times, 2 Aug. 1999; and Walter Pincus, "Atomic Lab Scientist Denies Passing Secrets: Lee Says He Is Being Made a Scapegoat," Washington Post, 2 Aug. 1999, A16.

Risen, James. "Security of Los Alamos Data Could Delay Trial U.S. Says." New York Times, 7 Aug. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

The Energy Department is seeking a delay in the decision on whether to pursue an indictment against Wen Ho Lee "in connection with the mishandling of nuclear secrets," officials said on 6 August 1999. The officials added that "[m]ore time is needed ... to decide whether to release highly classified information for use as evidence."

Loeb, Vernon. "Spy Probe Worries Chinese Americans: Groups Voice Fears of Ethnic Targeting." Washington Post, 14 Aug. 1999, A5. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"Chinese American groups, breaking months of public silence, have expressed concern to federal officials that espionage suspect Wen Ho Lee may have been targeted on the basis of his ethnicity."

Loeb, Vernon. "Ex-Official: Bomb Lab Case Lacks Evidence. Suspect's Ethnicity 'A Major Factor' in China Spy Probe." Washington Post, 17 Aug. 1999, A1. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

Robert S. Vrooman, the former head of counterintelligence at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said on 16 August 1999 that "Federal investigators targeted physicist Wen Ho Lee as an espionage suspect largely because he is a Chinese American and they still do not have a 'shred of evidence' that he leaked nuclear secrets to China.... Vrooman made his remarks in an interview with The Washington Post less than a week after Energy Secretary Bill Richardson recommended disciplinary action against him and two other former Los Alamos officials for alleged missteps during the espionage probe."

See also, William J. Broad, "Official Asserts Spy Case Suspect Was a Bias Victim," New York Times, 18 Aug. 1999.

Broad, William J. "Official Denies Spy Suspect Was Victim of Bias." New York Times, 19 Aug. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

Notra Trulock, the top intelligence officer at the Energy Department, "strongly denied [on 18 August 1999] that racism was involved in his department's years-long investigation of ... Wen Ho Lee." According to Trulock, "[h]is department sent the names of about a dozen suspects to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, only three of which were Chinese-Americans and the rest Caucasians."

Washington Post. "[Editorial:] The Espionage Scandal." 19 Aug. 1999, A20. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

It is "very difficult to know what to think of Mr. Lee -- especially in light of mounting evidence that the case against him was thin from the beginning.... This is not to contend that Mr. Lee is innocent -- something we simply cannot know.... [T]he larger problem of security lapses and espionage does not go away if Mr. Lee is not a spy, nor does the need for greater vigilance, and not just at the labs. That's true whether or not we learn any time soon what the exact extent of the Chinese nuclear espionage was -- or is."

New York Times. "[Editorial:] The Case of Wen Ho Lee." 20 Aug. 1999. [http://www. nytimes.com]

"Troubling accusations have been made, and denied, in recent days that Wen Ho Lee ... was singled out for investigation and punishment because of his Chinese ethnicity.... The truth can best be established by re-examining all aspects of the handling of the Lee case by the Energy and Justice Departments.... The review should be headed by a knowledgeable, authoritative figure like former Senator Sam Nunn or Gen. Colin Powell."

Spohn, Lawrence. "Espionage Case Against Wen Ho Lee Looking Empty, Some Say." Albuquerque Tribune, 25 Aug. 1999. [http://www.abqtrib.com/]

"Some former employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory say they believe the momentum in the investigation of suspected Chinese espionage at the lab may be shifting from government prosecutors to the chief suspect."

 

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